Posted by: Peadar Ban | May 10, 2016

The Creation Game

I am slowly reading a fascinating book by Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. titled THE MIND THAT IS CATHOLIC: Philosophical and Political Essays.  I would willingly share it with anyone, but shyness prevents me from doing that.  You see, I’ve filled it with notes and highlights and stuff like that.  It would destroy for the next reader what is really a delightful time with a wonderful thinker.  It’s probably not in Barnes and Noble, but you can get it from Amazon.  Isn’t anything that ever was available from Amazon?

You see, the reading of it is slow for me because of what he writes about, and the way he writes about it.  It’s a book, as are a number of other books, that I tell myself I should have read fifty years ago.  Then, I hadn’t the time.  Now, though, is the time for me, for most folks, to be reading it. Now I can, at last, understand the point(s) he’s interested in making, the argument he presents.

And, every once in a while he’ll give his reader some little delight to think about. Call it soul candy; an idea he presents, a question he asks, a view he points out that, were we together walking along some quiet path, meandering beside a river,  would require a pause, a long look, a smile of recognition and deep understanding.  Sometimes, I think, it really requires a fist pump and a loud shout!  But, that’s not for books, eh?  I’ll stick with the understanding, the smile

I’ve been smiling all morning, all day after reading this paragraph not too long after waking:

“Is what happens to the universe closer to games than it is to the working of machines?  What would this similarity between game and universe imply?  C.S. Lewis used the happy image of the “Great Dance” to describe what goes on the universe when it finally reaches its purpose.  It is a “beatific vision,” but is also an overflow in being, in human being.  What seems to be necessity may be closer to “doing something again” just for the delight of it.  This latter experience was the great image that Chesterton used of the sun rising each morning.  We may think that it is necessary and therefore uninteresting.  Chesterton remarked that natural laws may well be more like a child wanting to be thrown into the air again and again simply because it was delightful.”

This is from page 242 in the book, well into an essay entitled “Mysticism, Political Philosophy and Play”. “How lovely, this, ” I said aloud to the empty room, just as the sun was streaming through the window; just as one of its beams was turning fully a third of the green glass vase which held the flowers I bought my wife, just as it was turning it gold.

And, as I ran for my camera to take a photo, I thought no machine, no random series of events, no mindless pattern of accidents (can there be such a thing as a “pattern” of accidents?) does something like that.  My thinking has continued all day like this.  Surely if it is a game there must be rules.  We, the only rational beings must have some way of knowing them; a teacher, a coach, a rule book? Surely a game cannot make itself.  And on and on, until the end, the victory party.

Schall’s next paragraph is just as much fun:

“Behind such images is the great theological truth that the world need not be, but is (emphasis added).  This unnecessity brings us to the further question of the reason we have finite, intelligent being in a vast but finite universe.  Is what is (emphasis in the original) ultimately there to be beheld?  “Celebrations,” Aristotle said, “are for successful achievement, either of body or soul.”  That is to say celebrations are left to be begun when all else is done, when we have won.  Is it not remarkable that the fascination of the game, when we do not know its conclusion, ends in celebration when we do know how it turns out?  This is the arena of the “Great Dance.”  The definition of God is “I am who am.”  Only this existence can explain the “Great Dance.”

He made the Game.  He made the Rules.  He IS the celebration when the Game is over.  The one that never, never ends.

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

Posted by: Peadar Ban | May 8, 2016

Today, May 8, 2016: Mother’s Day

We have just finished our breakfast.  It is nearly 11 AM, but, we breakfast late on Sunday mornings; though we are always up early.  The alarm awakens us at 5:30 AM.  That is because we are the music makers at the 8:00AM Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church across the river in Hudson, NH.

There were a few more than 100 parishioners at Mass this morning.  That is the first time since Easter, seven weeks ago, that there have been that many people in attendance; and this on a rain threatening morning.  I was surprised, pleasantly surprised.

Mass ended, and the church was empty, as it usually is except for one or two, most of whom stay to chat; but a few who will kneel in the pew to whisper a private prayer of need or thanksgiving.  There was one man left as we came downstairs from the choir loft and walked, past the pew he was in with his little daughter, down the aisle to receive Communion.  As he left he genuflected and blessed himself, and helped his little girl do the same.  He was the one person to do that whom I saw.

And so I told him what I thought.  “That was wonderful,” I said.  And it was, literally, an act full of wonder, thankfulness and praise; rightful, just and helpful toward salvation as the old formula has it.  He smiled at me.  So did the little girl.

On the way home we stopped to purchase a birthday card for someone, and a First Communion card for someone else…and a bouquet of flowers for my wife.  The road leading to Dunkin Donuts, across the street from the Rite-Aid where we bought the cards,was backed up to the intersection with cars waiting to get in line for the drive through window, or to enter the place itself.  The parking lot did not have an empty space.

As we drove back in the direction of home we saw that the same conditions existed at the Mc Donald’s a few hundred feet down the road on the other side; long lines waiting for  a cheese Mc Muffin and a coffee; a filled to overflowing parking lot.

I said to Mariellen, “I suppose this is where one goes now instead of to church on a Sunday morning.”  And I wondered how the preaching was, “You want fries with that?  You want that up-sized?” I wonder now whether or not there was any genuflecting in either place.

It has started to rain gently, and may continue for the rest of the day.


In the current issue of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, the lead editorial’s headline/title is THE MASTER’S VOICE: Our Choice Is Obedience or Jesus as Anti-ChristIts author is Anthony Esolen who regularly appears in that publication and some others.  He thinks and writes well, and strongly, and bluntly.  I like to think of him as a kind of fighter, a melding of Sugar Ray Robinson and Rocky Graziano, or maybe Marciano; he’s that graceful and powerful.  Sometimes his power punches and points are so quick and deftly made that his opponent may not know he’s been knocked off his feet until he wakes up in the dressing room a half hour later.  This article is like that, I thought as I read it this morning, just a little while ago; as I read it and thought about “Coffee And” on a Sunday morning.

Esolen’s point, I think, is that there is a new odium Christi, a new kind of hatred of Christ different from the hatred, more like fear to me, the hatred of Christ which denied the wonders he worked and his divinity and turned him into little more than some sort of Nobel Peace Prize winner; one of any number of Hammarskjolds, or Obamas, who want to give the world hope and help it to change.  The new “odium Christi” is directed at ridding us of the Jesus of rules and wonders, the one who had things to say about “bad conduct” and “sin”, and whose ministers and priests were  (and the few left who are) so controlling.  He is ” a Jesus of the Subjunctive Mood who would say what we want him to say, were he alive, which he is not.  He is not the Jesus who did say what he said and who still says it.”

This new odium Christi gives us a Jesus who might be more like a life style coach.  He’s not a teacher.  He’s certainly not a savior and definitely not God, who really isn’t necessary any more, don’t you know.  Why? Why are God, Jesus and the rules and the preaching out?  Well because all of that is merely a guilt trip, a downer and sours the stomach for a coffee on Sunday morning.

Who needs being in church on a rainy morning seven weeks after Easter, a day which is only meant for chocolate bunnies, on Mother’s Day to boot, when Dunks is open and they’re practically giving away Mocha Frappe Moolattas with a shot of caramel essence and a half pint of mint flavored whipped creme on top.

Esolen includes in his piece three examples of , emm, someone who might once have had a problem with what used to be called serious or habitual, or, gasp, mortal sins.  Jesus the Anti-Christ is silent as a statue, a painting, a flower.

That’s the way we want him.


And, of course, we can get religious feelings listening to something like this.  What’s the difference, right?  It’s as good as church!


It’s a little after 6:00PM.  The sun shines brightly  I am home after attending a first communion celebration.  Ask me about it some day.



Posted by: Peadar Ban | May 4, 2016

A Poem Written After Writing A Letter


It was no black raven hovering there
Whose little wings beat the air,
Whose little beak opened and shut
As if to speak important words.

His dark black cap, his milk white breast,
His golden flanks; of all the rest
His steady eye holding me
‘Til I saw what he’d have me see.

Time passes… strangely it does not.
I am all that I have ever been and what
I will ever be folded in this seed of me;
Green, great, strong limbed as the tree

And fallen to the ground and rotted, dead.
For all that though I will live through that “end”
To rise, ascend in final irony.
Enfolded now in plainest mystery.

For Love lives Who gives life to me. Creation
Like a bird flies toward adoration.

Posted by: Peadar Ban | April 27, 2016

Today, April 27, 2016

The clock on the wall in the big room downstairs has just tolled the hour.  “Is has gone 6 in the morning”, it might be said in Ireland, that lovely soft land where it is almost mid day, now.  I opened my eyes about a half hour ago to the shadow of a tree stitched in  curtain of mist, lace within silk; and now, their dark trunks like black stone pillars, the silent ruins of  some ancient race feel the risen sun banishing shadow, the wispy hints of cool night, into the cloudless sky.


“The risen sun banishing shadow”

Across the narrow green carpet of meadow at the back of the house, peeking over the brow of the hill, a squad of jonquils raises their yellow heads to survey mist rising and light falling.  They are the brightest I’ve seen them yet. Looking at them I imagine them scouts of the coming day, heroes of light.


A Squad of Jonquils

I see the river now as its own slim cover of silken gray mist is lifted. And I imagine the budding trees away upon hills filled with small creatures and, perhaps, bright flowers in broad meadows, neat lawns. I see sleepy children in their warm beds, fathers on the way to work and mothers in their deshabille  sitting by the window sipping coffee, waiting. It wouldn’t have taken much I realize for someone, here dozens of centuries ago, to see in what has happened the forms of sprites and gods, of spirits whose job it was to move the mist and light the day, and leave an offering of thanks for the gift of life, light and such easy loveliness.  This is Easter, though, and I know better.

My own reverie here has no sound accompanying it other than the clock on the wall and  the soft birds singing in the thinning mist.  Everything else is still.

This is the break of day.  One can hardly hear it.

It is Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter, a ponderous and clumsy name for a lovely soft day.  Still Easter’s light floods the day.  That’s all that matters.

I just finished reading the story of one of our saints, Saint Peter Armengol, who  started out as the son of a king, became a bandit and wound up a monk.  There is more to the story than that, of course, and if you follow the link, you will find great parallels between St. Peter and today, because, you see, he spent much time ransoming captive Christians from their Muslim kidnappers and slave masters.  There were religious congregations founded for just that purpose, and, as the story goes, not a few of the Muslims became Christians because of the grace of their contacts with men like St. Peter Armengol.

It was the very kind  of “work” that St. Francis of Assisi wanted to do.  One of the things he said, which is very appropriate for today, I think, is this little bit about the kind of men we shouldn’t be: If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.

Since I’m talking about saints today, here’s another thing one of them gives us: “Nothing seems tiresome or painful when you are working for a Master who pays well; who rewards even a cup of cold water given for love of Him.”  St. Dominic Savio.

The morning’s getting on, and strong sunlight fills the room.  Still outside this window not a leaf stirs, but I see now the deep red of blossom buds on the old crab apple just a few feet away.  It would make a lovely tapestry.

With that thought in mind I’ll leave now, and go downstairs to brew another cup of coffee, and sit, and watch the squad of jonquils at the brow of the hill, and watch the river behind flow down to the sea.

Not much more than that is needed.

I very distinctly remember the first time I heard this piece of music.  I was sitting in class at Manhattan College in September of 1961, a Freshman in their School of Arts and Science.  The class was required of all incoming freshmen, Fine Arts.  And this was one of the first pieces of music we listened to.  By the time the day was over I had acquired two things: a record player and an LP with this one it.

I cannot read music.  All I can do is listen.

On The Pleasures of A Sleepless Night, Poison Ivy,

Headache and Snow Falling Before Dawn Breaks
5:30am, April 3, 2016

On such a morning as I would rather
Not have happen, cold, tired, I sit looking
Out and see the wood behind the house
Snaking up in silhouetted agony
Toward a dull blue tinged monotonous gray sky.
Cruel, wind bent black limbs twisting from black earth,
This wood lacks only a beast or two on the hillside
Where lost, afraid, frantic souls may wander.

In the dim globe’s glow from my back porch
A pitiful bit of snow in frenzied whirl,
Vortex of white, cold and lonely, falls
To unyielding wood, splatters blank windows
Dying away a useless skim of sweat
On the nail fixed measured weather grayed decking.

There is no color; none anywhere but
The tiny crocus in rows beside; just
Showing green yesterday in warm sunlight.
Pity them.  Pity, too, the daffodils
Whose buds’ bore yellow promise, bright delight
By snow splashed way from hill to river bank,
Steep trick leading to that cold stream waiting
In vain for the sun today. It won’t show.
I pray they prove their toughness by day’s end.

It is April after all, you know.  Should
We expect anything else of this month
So much like its rough rude twin September
At the year’s other end when rudeness is
The rule?  Yes, by God!  This is Spring!  Banish
This snow and all this snow untimely brings.
The unleaved trees need no winds, no roaring
Against the promise of soon sweeter days.

Let all this come back some bright, some ruddy
Tart apple afternoon, sun low’ring west
Towards winter’s snows when we are well ready
In September, a month made for it.  Yes!

April 3, 2016

Posted by: Peadar Ban | March 25, 2016

Today: March 25, 2016, Good Friday

It’s a brown day today.  A cool mist hangs over the world, at least in my neighborhood.  Were the trees now in bud, leafed fully out, their limbs would be moaning, bowing under the burden of all the water they’d had poured over them since about seven P.M. last night.  I was awakened once or twice during the night with a fury of rain beating on the roof and windows, a flood pouring through the downspout; and all this without high winds and the storms moans and roarings through the trees that high winds always bring.  Just now a short burst of a shower has beat like a million small fists against the window in the room where I’m sitting typing.  I can see the little birds huddled close to the tree trunks in the lee of the brief fit the rain’s having.  And, I feel a bit sorry for them, though, I guess, they don’t know as I would know, the misery of being caught in a cold, soaking rain.

There’s the burden of consciousness; well one of them, anyway.  I could write a book about some of the others, but, that’s already been done.  As a matter of fact, it’s probably been done too much.  This day itself has a lot to say about that, I think.

It’s Good Friday today.  Mariellen, my beloved wife, just told me that there’s a hard boiled egg in the fridge if I want to eat something, but I’m not hungry.  Funny as this may sound, I don’t think I will be hungry at all today.  Though I don’t feel ill.  Enough of my friends are ill if it makes any difference.  And, if I get hungry I’ll do what a Catholic kid’s supposed to do, “offer it up”, just like the nuns told us to do all those decades ago.  I may have ruined it a bit, what good the offering may bring to the world around , by mentioning this to you who read.  The point of it all is to do it without letting anyone know it, anyone but God, of course.  Let whatever happens, whatever might happen be between me and Him.

Why then did I mention it?  I really don’t know beyond occasionally wondering whether or not there are still folks who remember, and remembering still do things like that; silly little things; grains of sand which become mountains.

And, how can that matter beside what was done on this day a little less than 2,000 years ago?  Lots of folks, perhaps most of them, would laugh at my hunger making any difference anywhere in the Great Boarding House of the Universe.  Let ’em.  I believe Sister Mary Holy Picture’s words as if they came from the mouth of God Himself.  Which, not to put too fine a point on it, they did.

She, and a million women like her came and went in their black robes, and men, too, and now lie in the wet earth prayed for, to be sure, but anonymous to be more sure, and silent.  Unmourned here.  In another place, blessed.  There’s a lesson there, I suppose, and books have been written.

Today, perhaps, they won’t be read. And what they did, what they said, what they taught, what they believes in? Like the birds, silent, huddling in the cold rain…  The door home is being opened.

Here is a poem I wrote this morning while I have been thinking things like that.

To Be Famous at Home
“God Is Not Famous Here!”

Reading a thick, black book of scholarship
I thought of misperception, false impression,
Fancy, fashion, the attitudes they breed,
And truth, lost, outgrown or thrown away.

No slave of fashion am I, nor can I be.
My children, first of all, would not let me.
I am a humble man. So says my good
Friend to all we meet going on our way.
This truth embarrasses me nonetheless.

I would never appear in public on my town’s main street
In my vested suit (did I own one)like some TV star;
Without a tie and rather whitened teeth.
Causing folks to stare, gape, amazed as I strode by
A cut above them, wearing fame’s mantle.
I would hide were it in any way true.
The truth is, the worst truth, they wouldn’t care;
Murmuring among themselves cruelties,
Disbelief and mockeries, the common
Jealousies, blind refusals to believe.

I could play a lofty man, Olympian,
Only when alone in some strange place
Where none will ever recognize my face
I’d wear worn old tweeds, faded dungarees
Perhaps with hand sewn patches at the knees.
And until I spoke..unless..none would know.

There I’d give out discreet bits of mercy
I would have made with my own hands, ribboned
With the truth about the world the poor know
Who only own the sky, the river’s wide
Wild run down to the ocean deep and blue
And their tired eyes, bruised hearts, aching feet.

I have almost finished this thick black book
Whose bibliography’s a book itself
While rich men, rich women run everywhere
Pleading for support and help from everyone.
While rich men and women speak their rich words
Promising the brown brink eastward will dawn
The best day seen because they’ll  make it so.
Light will shine on us, light we call our own.
Sun once risen will never more go down.

Millions chase them, eat, drink their promises.
Across the wide land one walks nearly alone
Who has the world again, and again, gone
Round with the same gifts to give quietly
On a bright day or a brown day.  To all
Whom he may meet he softly speaks, sweetly
Smiles the dawn and the stars at night and peace
That surpasses all our understanding.

At this time of year, when at least here wakes
New life; today, in fact, we will kill him,
Have killed him over, and over whose truth
We can’t believe. They say, “It’s just not true!”
They say, “‘Isn’t he the carpenter’s son?”

Good Friday
March 25, 2016

One Minute Meditations

Last Things
Don’t be afraid of death. Accept it from now on, generously… when God wills it, where God wills it, as God wills it. Don’t doubt what I say: it will come in the moment, in the place and in the way that are best: sent by your Father-God. Welcome be our sister death!

– St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way, #739

Scripture Verse of the Day

2 Samuel 22:31

This God–his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

Life in Christ: Catechism #2186

Those Christians who have leisure should be mindful of their brethren who have the same needs and the same rights, yet cannot rest from work because of poverty and misery. Sunday is traditionally consecrated by Christian piety to good works and humble service of the sick, the infirm, and the elderly. Christians will also sanctify Sunday by devoting time and care to their families and relatives, often difficult to do on other days of the week. Sunday is a time for reflection, silence, cultivation of the mind, and meditation which furthers the growth of the Christian interior life.



The language is Latin.

Posted by: Peadar Ban | March 22, 2016

Today, March 22, 2016: Tuesday of Holy Week


I don’t know enough about the many folk among my friends who are not Catholic to know if they follow what we call the Liturgical Calendar, where Catholics in all places “keep time”, march to a different drum so to speak. (Well, I hope they still do.)  We have filled it with the seasons and days that help us remember the men and women who went before, the events and happenings which have occurred to help us realize both the reality of this particular moment, and the real meaning of all moments; who we are in the world, and where the world is in creation.

So, today is marked on the liturgical calendar as the Tuesday of Holy Week.  It has no special name beyond that; but that is enough to remind me, and many others, still, I hope, that we are in the midst of echoing an event that shattered the world.  I have often wondered, since the record of this week in history is silent about events between Palm Sunday’s procession and Holy Thursday’s opening act on the Passion, what today must have been like in Jerusalem on Tuesday of the First Holy Week.  Where did they go those first three days after Palm Sunday. Until that supper in the Upper Room?  What did they do?  What did He do?

Who would know at all what today was/is but for the calendar I refer to above.  Most of the world is ignorant. Somewhere it rains.  Somewhere blazing heat beats down.  People in one place are just getting up.  People in another place have begun their preparations for a quiet night.  Babies are born.  Old folks die.  Wars continue.

Tuesday of Holy Week, 2016, will pass unnoticed, unremarked, I suppose; just another Tuesday. Why?  Do we no longer care?  I cannot think so, but the evidence points to that.

It is a bright and beautiful day, and I was reading a book earlier this morning written by Joseph Ratzinger, who may be one day Saint Benedict XVI.  This book, but one of the many he has written, is called “Christianity and the Clash of Cultures”.  A thin thing; a good reader could probably get through it in a few hours.

His book argues that we, most folks, have indeed forgotten. That has come about because, what we have now is “a Christianity and a theology that reduce the core of the message of Jesus, that is, the “kingdom of God” to the “values of the kingdom”, identifying these values with the great slogans of political moralism while at the same time proclaiming that these slogans are the synthesis of the religions.  In this way they forget God, although it is precisely he who is both the subject and the cause of the kingdom.  All that remains in the place of God are the big words (and values) that are open to any kind of abuse.” (Ratzinger: “Christianity, etc.” Ignatius Press, p.29)

Everyone has values.  Just ask them.

They’re like undershirts, or better yet “tschotskes”.  One needn’t wear them, even the “true” ones but, sometimes, they look nice and make you feel better when you tell folks you have them. Folks sometime say, “Those were my values then.  I’ve changed”  They’re fungible.

Would you die for your values?  See what I mean?

There are fewer and fewer folk who “believe”, fewer and fewer folk who can give one a reason for believing.  And, the number of them who can give a theological reason for their belief has, I’ll bet a ham sandwich, diminished to the vanishing point.

The last part’s not necessary, though, is it?  Certainly the men who followed Jesus around Jerusalem on the first Tuesday of the first Holy Week could not have given a “theological” reason for their faith, the one which was the cause of all their deaths but one.  At least not until their experience forty five days from today in that crowded room in Jerusalem all those years ago. They died then not for anything like values.  I mean, while one can find the value in burning a little incense to Caesar, what is the value in suffering That Man’s death?  They died for Truth

Anyway, I thought I’d share this with you on a sunny Tuesday, part of that week which changed everything; a hidden, quiet, modest, humble day, like the fellow who wrote the book I’m reading.  The most valuable week, that led to the most Valuable Day ever.


 Bare Ruined Choirs


Reflections from the Saints

The Creed is the spiritual seal, our heart’s meditation and an ever-present guardian; it is, unquestionably, the treasure of our soul.

– St. Ambrose

One Minute Meditations

The Struggle
Days on retreat. Recollection in order to know God, to know yourself and thus to make progress. A necessary time for discovering where and how you should change your life. What should I do? What should I avoid?

– St. Josemaria Escriva, Furrow, #177

Scripture Verse of the Day

Proverbs 23:4-5

Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.

This hymn, the first of several if you wish to stay and listen, was written by St. John of Damascus, a Christian of the Eighth Century, who lives in that part of the world where Christianity was born, and in which it is now being crucified, literally.  Here, it is being exchanged for values and rights:
Posted by: Peadar Ban | March 17, 2016

Today: March 17, 2016: The Glorious Feast of St. Patrick


I awoke today to a pure Irish day, a fine, soft day all quiet and pure with bells ringing in a slim breeze, and the song of small birds on the air, and my soft bed beneath my old bones; soft as the womb that held me before I was a child, a boy and man, and while I was merely the promise my own father told me I was when Hope was everything; a promise the world’s own Father made to him, and to every mother, too.

The sky isn’t blue yet, but it will be.  It will be as blue as a little child’s eyes, and the sun swinging along on its way to the West again will be smiling warmly.

The sun hasn’t broken through the blue gray cover of clouds, a cover like a silk sheet on the world, but it will, golden like the eye of an egg on the plate in the morning

I awoke today singing inside.  It’s a song, I think the world sang the day it was born.  A song still being sung in the wind and through the waters, from the clouds to the waves.

My heart’s filled with music my heart was born to hear.

My head’s filled with the words of the music I was singing; a song of Creation and the Lord of all Who created Creation, and Who keeps it going out of pure love for all of us, the best of His creation.  Keeps it for us here in our playground and our palace, our toy and our Home; our long walk with Him, and our Destination in Him who promised never to leave us alone.

And, here are the words to the songs in my head this morning:

The Print of His Finger

The print of His finger on all that we see,
Strong Voice in the thunder, soft Whisper through trees.
His breath through black storms above fiercely broiling.
His arms wild waves cross wide world ever hurling.
God’s with the stars, bright, ancient and moving
Through fires of time and space, all combining.
One Will of creation, One firmness of purpose
Done without us and for us by Love all before us.

And this, the second:

I Saw God’s Face

I saw God’s face in a flower’s new bloom,
His promise in its sealed brother bud
Which, while I watched, opened wide
And beauty broke, and beauty broke
Through misery’s mists before my eyes.

Nothing more than form and hue;
Nothing less, though, it seemed, would do
To show me clear the Face of God
In this small thing in my little yard.

And all the world within contained,
Resolved, restored, reborn, explained.

Here are several “thoughts” for the day:

Reflections From the Saints:

If I am worthy, I am ready to give up my life, without hesitation and most willingly, for Christ’s name.

– St. Patrick
(Are you?)
More should be asked of you, because you can give more and you should give more. Think about it.

– St. Josemaria Escriva, Furrow, #13
(Have you?)
From Matthew:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”
(Do you?)
I have never met a people more open hearted and open handed than the Irish.

The great writer, G. K. Chesterton is the fellow who wrote a wonderful poem called “The Ballad of The White Horse”.  You should read it if you have not already done so.  But, in it are these famous lines:
For the great Gaels of Ireland
Are the men that God made mad.
For all their wars are merry
And all their songs are sad
Here is a song that captures well that bit of truth.  I could have given you any I suppose:



My wife and I, we sing at funerals, and have been doing that for a few years now.  When I tell that to folks I get a lot of strange looks, and not a few wrinkled noses and “Eeewwww!” sounds. I like doing it, as a matter of fact. And, sometimes after Mass is over I hear, from the people below me during the funeral Mass, that they liked it too. Most of the time, though, nothing is said. Folks at funerals tend to have something else on their mind, I think.

Then, there are those times I wonder just what it may be that they have on their mind; or, sometimes, lamentably, if there is a mind there at all on which a person may have a thing at all.. And, I wonder on those occasions what must life have been like for the person in the coffin or the urn which was just wheeled or carried from the church.  Did they leave something undone? Are they in line somewhere wishing they had taken care of something before the knock came at the door?

We sang at a funeral a few days ago, the second in  three days.  Folks like to die around this time of year.  They’re freer to do so between Christmas and Easter, I guess, and so are their families more free to let them go.  The schedule is more open, and Lent, that time of belt tightening, cleaning up, and preparation does seem appropriate for making the last trip, the one Home. And, so, we, I, feel it only right and just, proper and helpful toward salvation to die during the months between. Of course it is always best to do that after one has packed and made oneself ready for the journey. I truly believe that is the case; that letting go, that being let go to fly like an eagle, as the song we sometimes sing says, requires some kind of permission, some agreement of a sort and some leave taking among loves and, even, “Not-so-loves”..  As it takes two to tango, and a village to raise a child (or so they would have us believe), it takes a family for a happy ending.

The funeral was a small one, but all the folks necessary were there, and Mom was at the front, draped in baptismal white.  The Gospel chosen for the occasion this morning was from the Sermon on the Mount.  Father Pierre in his homily paid special attention to the next to last one, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”  It was an aspect of the deceased’s personality mentioned by one of her sons in brief remarks at the end of Mass.  He remarked that his mother could, and did, get mad; but she also asked for forgiveness, and strongly suggested of her children to practice what, he said, she did.

For several months, now, since the death of my brother Tom, my own not too distant death has been on my mind.  Perhaps the fact that we haven’t yet sold the house I’ve spent more than half my life in, that the year long process isn’t over helps concentrate my mind on leaving…and on NOT leaving behind a mess.  I was over there last night making last minute “adjustments” to things for a home inspection today by a pair of prospective buyers.  During that time I came across the cards and letters of condolence I received after Sheila died, and had time to review some of the things I couldn’t read nearly sixteen years ago.  She was well prepared, even if she didn’t hang around until Christmas, as I had hoped she might.  But, then, she had cancer, and it has a mind and schedule of its own.

Anyway, I continue to think about her, my brother and one or two friends; already gone and getting ready to go.  Part of my thinking has to do with straightening out the messes I think I have made…as much as I can. Because families are like cats, and each member quite as capable of dropping the odd chipmunk at your feet in humble supplication, or knocking your coffee cup off the table in the morning simply because its water bowl is filled with that rot from yesterday, I realized that isn’t an easy thing to do.  Nevertheless…

So, a couple of weeks, on February 13, almost two weeks after the fact, my family gathered at our home for a little “party” I had planned for my birthday.  It was a result of these thoughts and ideas and incidents in my life over the last several months:  the death of my brother, Tom, littler things, bigger things and approaching the beginning of my 75th year here; three quarters of a century and what it means “concentrates the mind wonderfully.”

I welcomed them by singing a few stanzas of Dear Old Donegal, gave them some idea, briefly, of the sweet memories they had given me, passed out some token gifts to each of them, read them two poems about days gone by and people, too, and then I read them this:

Dear Ones:
I never met any of my grandfathers, of whom I may have had three. That part of my/our family history is hazy; such things not being spoken about in front of the children at the time I grew up. I am, really, very unfamiliar with what is not spoken of in front of the children today.
This much I know about the men who may have had a claim on the title of grandfather. One died young, in his mid-50’s. His son, my father, followed suit. Of the other two, one may have run off, falling in love with long distance as I like to say. The other? Well, if he may have been anything to me, he may have been a step-grandfather, but he, too, was a ghost, a word not spoken, and name not mentioned beyond a mysterious reference from time to time to someone named Charlie.
In that, I had a lot in common with my children, who never really met either of their grandfathers. They had only two, there were/are no others.
So, I have no “training” for the role, no example to follow. Perhaps, I could say, I hadn’t sufficient training for the role of father, either, because grandfathers, at least the ones I knew from the tales my friends who have been fathers tell, become coaches of a sort, in the art of raising, preparing and maintaining children. I think about that from time to time and have to say the evidence may prove the case against me, and I am ready to admit my guilt.
My own father, if he taught me anything worthwhile during the short time he was with me, having departed now close to fifty years ago, taught me to love, to be a friend. Beyond that, Dad left the classroom and went inside himself, then died, from being there too long (?), just when I could have used his advice, love and wisdom most.
And, so, only I am left to tell you. What I have to tell is, or could be called, a love story; an unfinished love story. And like all love stories, it has a happy ending. Oh, how I hope it does.
When I was very young, little more than an infant, only several months old, I don’t know exactly…. But, it was just then, in the winter of 1942 when the world was at war and full of hate, and pain and anger, I came down with measles.
From the stories I heard as a youngster, the family greatly feared for my mortality. And, I got cared for by almost everyone available in the family who could do it.
All of the shades in the little apartment in the Bronx where we lived were kept drawn all day long, lights turned off in any room where I was, because people feared too much or too strong a light would damage my eyesight. I was regularly bathed to control my fever, which was in the 102/103 degree range for a week or two, kept unclothed in the warm rooms and carried on a pillow because of the rash, and the possibility of irritating my tender skin.
No one is alive today who remembers this illness. No one who lived through it with me; my parents and grandparents, my aunts and uncles, the rest of their family and friends are all dead. My brother was the last to die, only a few months ago; and we were both told how very much concerned he was that his baby brother was sick. He was only a little more than three himself, and could not, I am sure, have understood the meaning of someone he loved possibly leaving him forever.
But, because I was very much loved… as my mother and father explained to me when they told me the story… by everyone in the family, and by God… I did not die, I lived. I very much loved hearing the story told, and listening to the song my father used to sing to me when I was young, the song he sang when I was near death: “You Are My Sunshine”. My Sunshine was his title for me. My father called my brother, Tom, his Pride and Joy, a title Tom often told me he did not like as much as mine.
Love gave me life, of that I have no doubt, and kept me alive when I was nearly dying.
Love, and Love’s skill at healing saved me again only eight short years later when I was hospitalized with a burst appendix and peritonitis. A two week hospitalization followed while I was treated for that infection with antibiotics and a tube in the incision to drain the “foul smelling fecal matter” which the operating surgeon found had filled my abdominal cavity when he opened me on the operating table followed. I know of that last unpleasant detail because years later while working at the same hospital during my high school days I looked up my medical records and read the surgeon’s notes. I spent another month at home after my discharge from the hospital, pampered and cared for by my parents and relatives, and once more only I am here to tell the tale.
There have been times since when I have had the passing thought that Love did me no favors then, keeping me alive. But, and of this I am sure as I am sure that my feet end in toes, Love, in its many forms, and from its many sources, has kept me alive and brought me back from death, both temporal and eternal death, many, many times since despite my passing emotions and annoyances, my petty fevers, my thin-skinned sensitivities …. too young, still, and undisciplined …. my continued weak resistance to the infective organism of un-love, the virus so easily transmitted, so virulent and deadly, so present in the air we breathe, the lives we too often lead, the attitudes we have about ourselves and others far from us and closer still; as close as you are here with me now.
I have lately been reflecting on this, and have come to see that we, we’re all more or less the same: sick infants, in the grip of a viral fever, helpless children filled with poisons of our own making, who are kept alive and who will be eventually cured (if we submit to the treatment, regard the precautions and take the prescribed medications) by Love; which is the only cure that works.
I have also thought about this: That everyone here is a vector of that virus, a source of those infections, and that I am, and have been often, a source myself, a disease carrier and a source of illness in others.
We all carry it around with us. It is called Original Sin, though it also goes by other names, most commonly Pride; though it can also be known by the names jealousy, anger. There are others, too, and maybe you have felt their fevers from time to time within you. They are always painful. Very painful. And they last. They resist treatment.
I’ll not belabor the point or stretch the metaphor. I simply want to say that these illnesses don’t respond to any care, cannot be healed by any treatment, but one … Love.
A friend of mine, a lovely woman who lives in France, who, God willing, I will meet someday, sent me something a few days ago. She didn’t send it directly and only to me. Rather, I think she must have been used by another Person, another “Physician”, as a conduit, a path to deliver the message I needed, everyone needs, so desperately. This Other One is the prescribing doctor for my, for our, ills, and I have come to think of my friend in this situation as the compounding pharmacist.
I will read what has been prescribed and suggest how it may, must, be taken:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Romans 12: 9
Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Romans 13: 10
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Ephesians 4: 2
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4: 8
I have differences of opinion, belief, style, values, life, choice and even of what foods to eat with everyone in this room, to a greater or lesser degree; and to a greater or lesser degree those differences of opinion and belief, of action and lifestyle, I have with everyone in this room have caused me some pain, worry, anxiety or ache for as long as I have known you; and for most of you for as long as you have been alive. And I have no doubt that you can say the same thing about me… and about everyone else in this room, too. Some of these “differences” are merely passing … call them annoyances … like ants at a picnic. Some are deeper, darker, perhaps more dangerous.
We all have a multitude of sins which need covering over; which need to be covered deeper than deep. And we all need to take the medication offered by Love, which is, simply, love, to drain the poisons, to open the shades, to let the light to shine in. We must swallow, and expel pride. We must hate what is evil; but hate it first and most importantly in ourselves and cling, cling with all our strength, sometimes, and cling desperately, perhaps, many times, to what is good. Until we know The Good, and love it, too.
That may seem like work, seem too hard a task, seem to be a “thankless” task. We are all used to getting paid for our work. But, what if what we have now, what we are being asked to work at reaching is simply what we have been meant for all along? That’s what occurred to me while thinking about this. We were created by Love, to love and be loved.
In the end, the only thing we have in common, the one thing which unites us and will bring us peace is Love. Then, why not live in Love with one another, quick to forgive, believing the Good, hoping for the most, Joy filled, striving always for the most pleasant and, above, all forgetting what would please ourselves and placing the needs of the other before our own?
That means we must be completely humble and gentle, being patient and bearing with one another in love. Then we will be able to love each other deeply, covering, burying and putting out of sight a multitude of sins. Sins which are our own, too; sins we see so clearly in others but cannot bear to look at in ourselves.
When my son left me thirteen years ago, I knew it was my fault, and not his, and that once more my mouth had gotten me in trouble. Nonetheless I was mad.  I was very angry, but that soon changed as I contemplated what had happened.  And, then, for several days I thought I would simply go to his door and, on my knees, beg his forgiveness. But, I was too timid. The mouth that had gotten me in such trouble was incapable of helping me perhaps heal the situation. I’ll confess to you all that I’ll still be speaking three days after I’m dead, and most of that will be the wrong thing to say at the wrong time. But, I’m trying to listen, and slowly, I think, trying to make my own what I wrote on a board that hung in what was once Andrew’s bedroom, a line from St. James’s Epistle “Know this, my dear brothers: everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the wrath of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.”
Children … you are all my children in one meaning of the word or other, even you to whom I am not related by blood or law or custom (yet)… let us love one another. For as the Apostle says, “Love is of God.”
Because, after all, God is Love. And, we are made in His image and likeness, aren’t we.

When it was all over, I sang them one of my favorite Irish songs, The Parting Glass, and invited them to leave.  I feel better for having done what I did while I could still do it.  I wish my brother had, and wonder whether the folks who get up at the end of funeral Masses to say a word or two about Dad, Mom, Granny or Uncle Ted, would rather have heard the same , or something similar from the one silent before them.

Posted by: Peadar Ban | February 16, 2016

Staying Home on A Rainy Day Listening to Sibelius

Hurry! Taut strings urge two gray squirrels on
Swiftly, nervously.  Straight they scurry down
Great black oaks shifting in and out of sight
In the smoke gray mist off the snow; last night’s
Brittle winter gift from uncaring clouds.

How well he knows the stinging passing mists
Along a tree lined river snows have kissed;
Ice covered now after an ice cold night.
There’s great stress in such music’s strength, and fight.
That defies slicing winds and cruel rain’s cold.

Though unfallen leaves are beat, trees won’t bow.
Rain ends! River flows! Trees stand! Music knows.

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